April 5, 2010 – April 9, 2010
If we thought that biking 10 hours as day for 3 months across the United States was tiring, it was only because we hadn’t worked at a New York brewery yet.
Last week the guys at Sixpoint Craft Ales invited us down to Red Hook, where they kicked our butts into shape, having us mash in and then kick out (yes, we’re learning the lingo) grain, clean and fill kegs, fill and label bottles (for their specialty brews) and generally help keep their fast moving facility spic and span. It was an amazing opportunity, not only to learn more about the professional brewery industry, but to meet some pretty awesome people.
Even though Sixpoint is one of the most popular local beers in New York City, we were surprised to find out that almost every single drop is produced by only 5 people (along with a few others to handle sales and building maintenance). How do they put out so much beer with so few hands? A lot of long hours and a very efficient schedule. For our week, we pretty much stuck to a Monday through Friday 9-5, but on brew days, the guys often start at 6am and stick around until after 5pm so that they can keep the New York City taps flowing with as much Sweet Action, Righteous Rye, Bengali Tiger, Otis Stout, Gorilla Warfare, Vienna Pale Ale and Brownstone as possible. An exhausting schedule, even if it didn’t include shoveling thousands of pounds of grain, lifting keg after keg from pallet to pallet , and stirring by hand what amounts to the largest bowl of oatmeal you’ve ever seen.
You’d think that the last thing brewers Craig Frymark and Ian McConnell would do with their free time would be to make beer, but you’d be wrong. Owner Shane Welch knows that designing good beer is like cooking, sometimes you just have to try things out and see what happens, so he has provided the brewery with a first rate pilot system that everyone who works there can use to try out new recipes and experiment with new ingredients. While we were there, we saw them start up a new IPA, a mild, and an awe inspiring Saison made with imported French fennel sticks. Where do all these new creations end up? Well, in the case of many they end up in the office kegerator, where staff and visitors can taste and comment on the experiments. However, some one-off batches have taken the brewery in new directions. For example, the Grand Crüe, a 3-year aged Belgian Strong Ale is available in limited edition bottles, and a new stein beer, Dr. Klankenstein, made with super-heated basalt will be available at exclusively at the Modern (MOMA’s restaurant). The fennel stick Saison will be featured at a beer dinner at The Vanderbilt on April 27. They also brew a special order beer for the much lauded East Village spot Lil’ Frankie’s – Lil’ Frankie’s Pale Ale. They may be know best for their Sweet Action but it certainly hasn’t hurt them to keep those creative juices flowing!
The exciting events at Sixpoint don’t stop at beer-making though. Shane’s latest project has been to create a rooftop garden using broken kegs and leftover bathtubs as planters. Not Eating Out in New York’s Cathy Erway is helping put together some recipes with spent grains and the fresh garden veggies and herbs. Since we love the idea of merging great beer and food with local sustainability, we went gaga over their hop rhizomes, just starting to spout, along with squash, tomatoes, spices, and more. The plan? First, make sure these hard working brewers are well fed. After that, well, they’ll just have to see how the growing season goes. If the gardening goes half as well as the brewing, they are going to be VERY busy.
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